Category Archives: Labor & Employment

Immigration reform ideas again floated in DC

Proposed H-2A Expansion

The House Appropriations Committee recently approved an amendment containing a proposal to allow farm employers to use the H-2A visa program to hire foreign workers, regardless of whether those employees are engaged in temporary or seasonal work. Congressman Dan Newhouse sponsored the proposal so that dairy farmers can more readily use the H-2A visa program to fill their need for year-round workers.

For more information, click here for the news release from National Milk.

If you are interested in finding out what the political opposition is saying, check out this post.

New Ag Guest Worker Bill

On a related note, the House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing [https://judiciary.house.gov/hearing/agricultural-guestworkers-meeting-growing-needs-american-agriculture/] recently on agricultural guest workers. Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is expected to introduce his ag immigration reform bill soon. According to reports, the Agricultural Guestworker Act will replace the H-2A system with a new H-2C system. The program would be administered by USDA and would serve the more diverse needs of dairy, food processing, and other year-round operations. Visas for existing and incoming workers would be up to 36 months long, and workers would have more portability and flexibility through working under contract or at will.

We will know more about the details of the proposal once a draft of it is released. Meanwhile, here is a link to Chairman Goodlatte’s statement about the bill.

RAISE Act

Finally, the President Trump, flanked by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) at a White House ceremony, announced new legislation to reduce legal immigration to the United States. The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act would reduce by 50 percent the number of people who can receive legal permanent resident status and would require English-language proficiency.

Proponents say the bill would move the United States to a “merit-based” immigration system and away from the current model, which is largely based on family ties.

Critics are concerned that curbing legal immigration will harm U.S. economic growth.

For more information on the RAISE Act, read this article.

 

Pregnancy Accommodation

The Legislature passed a bipartisan, compromise bill to promote healthy outcomes for pregnant women and infants. Among other things, SB 5835 requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation in employment for pregnancy unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business. The bill passed the Legislature unanimously and was signed into law on May 16.

Pay Equity

An attempt by legislators to update the state’s equal pay laws is still being negotiated. HB 1506 would expand the scope of current law, as well as enforcement provisions. That bill passed the House during the Regular Session and the 1st Special Session, but it did not pass the Senate. On May 25, the House again passed the bill during the 2nd Special Session. A Senate title-only bill, SB 5836, is in Senate Rules. If House and Senate negotiators can reach agreement on bill language, the bill may pass this year.